The Slovenia Times

New Salary System Leaves State Officials Dissatisfied



For the six years, the public sector unions and the government representatives negotiated on the Collective Agreement for the Public Sector. At the beginning of June, the agreement was finally signed by the Minister of Finance, Andrej Bajuk, the Minister of Public Administration, Gregor Virant and the leader of the union negotiators, Doro Hvalica.

The salaries in the public sector have not significantly changed since 2002, and according to the new system, they would increase up to some 13 percent, promised Virant when he signed the agreement. At the same time, he asserted that the scheduled increase by 2010 was not a pre-election gift. The new salary system was a logical result of negotiations and would eliminate certain disproportionalities, he added.

The signing of collective agreement was first scheduled for May, but was later postponed. The reasons for this were benefits in military salaries that the Government had introduced into the salary act on the proposal of the Defence Ministry. According to Hvalica, the government favoured the Slovenian Army with these new decrees, while Minister of Public Administration was even more determined. He characterized the government's move as a mistake and said he would be willing to resign if equality was not restored.

In the end, Virant reached an agreement with Prime Minister Janez Janša and Defence Minister Karl Erjavec and, after six years, the collective agreement was finally signed.

Dissatisfied Judges

While the president of Slovenia, Danilo Türk, welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations on salaries in the public sector, many civil servants expressed their discontent. Among the louder critics of the reform are Slovenian judges. Disgruntled after they were put in the same basket with other public servants, they launched a three-day warning strike in the first half of June. Apart from a wage increase they also demand to be given a status comparable to that of representatives in national parliament and government ministers.

Minister Virant, however, was unwavering: the judges' protest would not extort a solution which would make them privileged. They were adequately placed between the 40th and the 57th salary grade, he explained, and added that the judges were undoubtedly and undeniably a part of the public sector. Specifically, they receive their salaries form public funds and provide public services.

Since their demands had not been met, the judges in July started a work-to-rule strike. Approximately one third of lawsuits would remain unresolved, while some would be postponed. Nevertheless, the strike committee stands by its plan: it announced that the judges would continue their work-to-rule strike until a change in the salary system would be reached.

Agreement with Customs Workers and Police

Judges are not the only dissatisfied civil servants: the Customs Union as well as the Police Trade Union both announced strikes at the beginning of September. Custom workers were dissatisfied with the systematisation of work posts, which did not grant more demanding posts at what they considered to be adequate levels. When the union reached an agreement with Virant, the strike was cancelled. The scheduled work interruption of the police was also cancelled after the union reached an agreement on salary promotion by ten salary grades. According to Virant the solution was found within the existing system and did not require changes to the collective agreement, signed in June.

Nurses on Strike

While the government managed to bury the hatchet with the customs and the police, nurses opened a new front. A group of the nurses from the intensive care unit of Slovenia's biggest hospital, the Ljubljana Clinical Centre, refused to do the work they were not educationally qualified for. They demanded a 30 percent pay raise and a move up on the payroll ladder by one salary grade. Among their demands was also a written confirmation that the qualification necessary for their work in the intensive care unit should not be acquired in school but only through practice. After they had received no response from the management of the hospital, they declared a so-called "white strike", similar to work to rule.

The new public sector salary system left many other civil servants unsatisfied, including teachers, doctors, and journalists of the public service broadcaster RTV SLO, who all expected better salaries, but in the end got less.


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